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How to Get Tender, Flavorful Meat when Cooking Heritage Chickens

A roasted whole chicken on a cutting board.

With the price of everything from gas to food on the rise, feeding your family is costly. Whether you buy meat birds from the grocery store or take your family out to eat, you’re likely spending more money than in years past and getting less food.

So, what’s the solution?

Homeowners or niche free-range farmers have an opportunity to help ensure they are taking an active part in securing food sources by planting gardens, shopping local, and raising chickens. And if you want birds that have lots of flavor, heritage breed chickens—like Delaware, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and New Hampshire breeds—are the way to go.

At Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we’ve been providing quality baby chicks for farms and backyards for years from our network of small, family farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Cooking heritage chickens from our farms that you raised in your backyard or broiler farm allows the chickens to age longer. As with any poultry, the longer the birds are aged, the more flavor their meat contains.

But cooking these special birds takes careful consideration that is much different than the frying pan special you can get at the local diner. Continue reading today’s blog post to learn more about these unique breeds. When you’re ready to raise chickens of your own for their egg production and delicious meat, contact us! We’ll be in touch as soon as today’s chicks have hatched!

What Is a Heritage Chicken?

You won’t typically find heritage chickens for sale in your local grocery store because they usually only sell standard breeds raised on industrial farms. The Livestock Conservancy defines heritage chickens as breeds with the following characteristics:

  • They were recognized as an American Poultry Association Breed before the 1950s
  • They are naturally mating
  • They live a long and productive outdoor life
  • They have a slow growth rate, meaning it takes at least 16 weeks to reach their ideal market rate.

Freedom Ranger Hatcheries have several options for heritage chickens, including the popular Rhode Island Red breed, known for its flavorful and tender meat and excellent egg production. The species can withstand the cold, are excellent free-rangers, and are resistant to disease. Cooking heritage chickens, like the ones you can get from Freedom Ranger, is bound to bring a taste sensation you’ve never experienced.

Is Cooking Heritage Chickens Different than Other Chickens?

When you’re ready to harvest your heritage chickens, there are several ways to ensure that you get tender chicken meat that is fall-off-the-bone juicy. When cooking heritage chickens, it’s important to remember that since they are older than supermarket birds, they’ve had much more exercise. This increased activity produces more flavor but requires more cooking time to tenderize the exercising muscles.

Other valuable information to consider when cooking your heritage chickens include:

  1. Age has benefits—When cooking heritage chickens, younger birds may be more tender, but older birds have more flavor. We suggest allowing your heritage birds to age and cooking them for longer. Older birds, in particular, make excellent stewing birds.
  2. Use a high-quality fat—Coat your bird in oil or butter to make it crisp when frying, sautéing, roasting, or grilling.
  3. Cook it low and slow—Cooking heritage chickens should be done at a low temperature and shouldn’t be rushed, with a lid to lock in moisture. Because heritage breeds are known for their plumpness and meaty texture, going low and slow will ensure the chicken won’t dry out during cooking.

An Alternative to Frying

Because heritage chickens are so versatile, there are other ways to prepare them besides a frying pan and still achieve great-tasting results. The possibilities are endless, and the versatility of heritage chickens will keep your family asking, “Are we having chicken tonight?” a lot more often.


If you have a Dutch oven, roasting heritage-breed chickens is easy, and the meat shines in this preparation method. The heavy lids are great for locking in plenty of moisture during cooking.

Cooking your heritage bird is as easy as placing the chicken breast-side down, including onion, garlic, and butter for seasoning, and adding a cup of water to keep the steam at optimum levels. Then, for every pound, roast for 30 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’ll be sure to have the best chicken your family has eaten in a long time.


Another option to consider when preparing heritage chickens is stewing. If you are looking for breeds of chicken that make mouth-watering soup or chicken that is not mush after a day in the slow cooker, the slow-growing heritage breed male is your number one choice.

Put a cut-up or whole chicken in a pot, add enough water to cover the bird, and cook for one hour per pound. Do not allow the water to boil, as low and slow is the rule here, too. Stewed chicken can be used in tacos, salads, soups, casseroles, and many other dishes.

Ready to Order Your Heritage Chickens?

When cooking heritage chickens, remember to keep it low and slow. These birds are tougher than those raised on industrial broiler farms; thus, they need more time to cook to become tender. However, you can’t beat the flavor of heritage-breed chickens, especially those raised in your backyard.

Now that you know more about heritage chickens and how to prepare them, use our handy contact form to place an order for baby chicks. Beat the rising costs of buying chicken at the grocery store or your favorite restaurant by growing a food source in your own backyard for your family.